Major changes are in store for companies that use UK non-geographic numbers that are marketed as “UK toll free numbers”. These will affect nearly all businesses advertising 0800, 0808, 0845, and 087 numbers to reach customers in the UK. Some of the changes are effective 1 July 2015, and others are already in effect.
UK Toll Free Numbers
Until now, UK “toll free” numbers haven’t actually been entirely free for consumers to dial.
Calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers are free of charge when placed from landlines, but consumers calling businesses from mobile phones have been paying a premium rate.
In addition, all callers pay a premium rate to call numbers beginning with 084 and 087 prefixes, and these numbers (except 0870 numbers) provide revenue sharing with the called party.
Some of the numbers are included in landline calling plans, but most are never included in mobile call packages.
The situation for mobile users who want to call customer service at your company is confusing and expensive. Mobile calls are charged at a premium rate, and the calls are often not covered by the customer’s calling plan.
So most customers aren’t really sure what it costs to call a business using a non-geographic number from a mobile device. Statement shock arises when mobile users get their billing for calls to non-geographic numbers.
Major Ofcom Changes Affecting Most Businesses
Very significant changes will affect companies doing business in the United Kingdom.
- 0845 and 0870 Numbers Disallowed for Helplines
- Freephone Calls to 0800 and 0808 Numbers Will be Free for All Callers (effective 1 July 2015)
084 and 087 No Longer Allowed for Helplines
An EU directive that took effect 13 June 2014 required that no customer should be charged more for a phone call than the national rate to contact customer service or customer support.
Beginning 1 July 2015, Ofcom’s rules, based on the the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, will bring a big changes to businesses that are currently using UK toll free numbers or freephone numbers to connect with local customers:
Businesses will no longer be allowed to advertise 084, 087, or 09 numbers for consumer use to reach customer helplines, customer service, or customer complaint lines. (Companies will be able to use 0845 numbers for non-customer advice services so long as the charges are clearly advertised. Two charges will be detailed separately on the customer bill – a service charge that is paid to the company called, and an access charge that is paid to the phone company.)
In order to comply with this new regulation, businesses that currently use 084, 087, or 09 UK toll free numbers as a way for customers to contact them must switch to a 01, 02, 03, 07 (mobile) number, or use a freephone number.
Free Mobile Calls to 0800 and 0808 Freephone Numbers
All calls made to freephone numbers (0800 or 0808) must be completely free for customers.
Prior to this rule, customers and businesses shared the cost of calls made to freephone numbers.
Businesses will be required to pay all the costs associated with these calls (regardless of the device or network used to make the call). Many incumbent carriers will now charge a single blended rate, so that landline and mobile calls will be billed at a single common rate to businesses receiving the calls. The cost of owning a UK freephone number will dramatically increase on for before 1 July 2015.
What Can Your Business Do to Minimize Telephony Costs?
Businesses can expect to pay more per call for calls to their freephone numbers in the 0800 and 0808 ranges, with costs for landline and mobile calls often quoted at a single common rate. In addition, businesses will need to replace existing 084 and 087 numbers if those numbers are used for customer service. These can be switched to 01, 02, or 03 numbers.
03 numbers may be the best numbers to use to minimize your calling costs associated with your UK toll free number, and to comply with updated Ofcom regulations.
What are UK 03 numbers?
UK 03 numbers are new non-geographic toll free numbers (sometimes referred to as UK-wide geographic numbers) available in the UK.
According to Ofcom:
“Ofcom introduced UK-wide 03 numbers as an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers, such as 0870.”
As Ofcom states:
“These are new numbers that allow organisations to have a single national point of contact without consumers having to pay extra to call them.”
Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number, and count toward the consumer’s included calling plan minutes. Revenue sharing is disallowed for consumer calls to 03 numbers, so that the called party does not receive a share of what the consumer pays to make the call.
Ofcom itself has 03 numbers such as these examples:
- Ofcom licensing centre 0300-123-1000
- Ofcom switchboard 0300-123-3000
Why Use an 03 Number to Replace Your 0845 or 0870 Numbers?
An 03 number will still allow your business to have a single point of contact in the UK, and it costs no more to call than the national rate.
Any calls made to a 03 number also count toward the caller’s inclusive minutes. Since most consumers have a bundled rate plan on their mobile phones (and sometimes even their landlines), this means that calling a 03 number is effectively free the consumer, and no more expensive than a freephone call for the business.
How to Get a UK 03 Number
AVOXI.com currently has 03 UK toll free numbers in stock, and they will be available for purchase before the 1 July 2015 deadline.